Center for American Progress: Widespread LGBTQ Discrimination

Wikipedia: LGBTQ Employment Discrimination

CNN: LGBTQ Employees Protected Against Discrimination

NBC News: LGBTQ Job Discrimination Prohibited
Huff Post: LGBTQ Workplace Discrimination

Negative Attitudes Toward LGBTQ People

NPR: Discrimination Compounds for LGBTQ People of Color

John Oliver: LGBTQ Discrimination

ENDA: Employment Non-Discrimination Act


LGBTQ Discrimination: Subtle, Significant, Widespread


According to a study by the Center for American Progress, widespread discrimination continues to shape LGBTQ people’s lives in both subtle and significant ways.

New research from the Center for American Progress shows that LGBTQ people across the country continue to experience pervasive discrimination that negatively impacts all aspects of their lives. In response, LGBTQ people make subtle but profound changes to their everyday lives to minimize the risk of experiencing discrimination, often hiding their authentic selves.

1 in 4 LGBTQ people report experiencing discrimination in 2016.


Over the past decade, the nation has made unprecedented progress toward LGBTQ equality. But to date, neither the federal government nor most states have explicit statutory nondiscrimination laws protecting people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBTQ people still face widespread discrimination: Between 11 percent and 28 percent of LGB workers report losing a promotion simply because of their sexual orientation, and 27 percent of transgender workers report being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion in the past year. Discrimination also routinely affects LGBTQ people beyond the workplace, sometimes costing them their homes, access to education, and even the ability to engage in public life.

Data from a nationally representative survey of LGBTQ people conducted by CAP shows that 25.2 percent of LGBTQ respondents has experienced discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in the past year. The January 2017 survey shows that, despite progress, in 2016 discrimination remained a widespread threat to LGBTQ people’s well-being, health, and economic security.

Among people who experienced sexual orientation- or gender-identity-based discrimination in the past year:

--68.5 percent reported that discrimination at least somewhat negatively affected their psychological well-being.
--43.7 percent reported that discrimination negatively impacted their physical well-being.
--47.7 percent reported that discrimination negatively impacted their spiritual well-being.
--38.5 percent reported discrimination negatively impacted their school environment.
--52.8 percent reported that discrimination negatively impacted their work environment.
--56.6 report it negatively impacted their neighborhood and community environment.


Unseen Harms

LGBTQ people who don’t experience overt discrimination, such as being fired from a job, may still find that the threat of it shapes their lives in subtle but profound ways. David, a gay man, works at a Fortune 500 company with a formal, written nondiscrimination policy. “I couldn’t be fired for being gay,” he said. But David went on to explain, “When partners at the firm invite straight men to squash or drinks, they don’t invite the women or gay men. I’m being passed over for opportunities that could lead to being promoted.”

“I’m trying to minimize the bias against me by changing my presentation in the corporate world,” he added. “I lower my voice in meetings to make it sound less feminine and avoid wearing anything but a black suit. … When you’re perceived as feminine (whether you’re a woman or a gay man) you get excluded from relationships that improve your career.”

David is not alone. Survey findings and related interviews show that LGBTQ people hide personal relationships, delay health care, change the way they dress, and take other steps to alter their lives because they could be discriminated against.

Maria, a queer woman who lives in North Carolina, described a long commute from her home in Durham to a different town where she works. She makes the drive every day so that she can live in a city that’s friendly to LGBTQ people. She loves her job, but she’s not out to her boss. “I wonder whether I would be let go if the higher-ups knew about my sexuality,” she says.

CAP’s research shows that stories such as Maria’s and David’s are common. The below table shows the percentage of LGBTQ people who report changing their lives in a variety of ways in order to avoid discrimination.


Unique Vulnerabilities in the Workplace

Within the LGBTQ community, people who were vulnerable to discrimination across multiple identities reported uniquely high rates of avoidance behaviors.

In particular, LGBTQ people of color were more likely to hide their sexual orientation and gender identity from employers, with 12 percent removing items from their resumes (in comparison to 8 percent of white LGBTQ respondents) in the past year. Similarly, 18.7 percent of 18- to 24-year-old LGBTQ respondents reported removing items from their resumes (in comparison to 7.9 percent of 35- to 44-year-olds). Meanwhile, 15.5 percent of disabled LGBTQ respondents reported removing items from their resume (in comparison to 7.3 percent of nondisabled LGBTQ people). This finding may reflect higher rates of unemployment among people of color, disabled people, and young adults; it may also reflect that LGBTQ people who could also face discrimination on the basis of their race, youth, and disability feel uniquely vulnerable to being denied a job due to discrimination, or a combination of factors.


Legalizing Religious Based Discrimination

Federal Court Rules Mississippi Businesses Can Discriminate Against LGBTQ People

LGBTQ Discrimination in Tennessee

Info: Homophobia and Heterosexism

Religious Liberty and Discriminating Against Gay Homebuyers

Map of State Religious Exemptions Laws

Handy Guide to Understanding Religious Exemption Laws

LGBTQ Discrimination: Psychological Impact

What Left-Handed People Can teach the LGBTQ Community


Unique Vulnerabilities in the Public Square

Discrimination, harassment, and violence against LGBTQ people (especially transgender people) has always been common in places of public accommodation, such as hotels, restaurants, or government offices. The 2015 United States Transgender Survey found that, among transgender people who visited a place of public accommodation where staff knew or believed they were transgender, nearly one in three experienced discrimination or harassment—including being denied equal services or even being physically attacked.


In March 2016, then Gov. Pat McCrory signed North Carolina H.B. 2 into law, which mandated anti-transgender discrimination in single-sex facilities—and began an unprecedented attack on transgender people’s access to public accommodations and ability to participate in public life. That year, more than 30 bills specifically targeting transgender people’s access to public accommodations were introduced in state legislatures across the country. This survey asked transgender respondents whether they had avoided places of public accommodation from January 2016 through January 2017, during a nationwide attack on transgender people’s rights. Among transgender survey respondents:

--25.7 percent reported avoiding public places such as stores and restaurants, versus 9.9 percent of cisgender LGB respondents
--10.9 percent reported avoiding public transportation, versus 4.1 percent of cisgender LGB respondents
--11.9 percent avoided getting services they or their family needed, versus 4.4 percent of cisgender LGB respondents
--26.7 percent made specific decisions about where to shop, versus 6.6 percent of cisgender LGB respondents

These findings suggest that ongoing discrimination in public accommodations pushes transgender people out of public life, making it harder for them to access key services, use public transportation, or simply go to stores or restaurants without fear of discrimination.


[Source: Sejal Singh and Laura E. Durso, Center for American Progress, May 2017]


Center for American Progress: Widespread LGBTQ Discrimination

Info: Homophobia and Heterosexism

Wikipedia: LGBTQ Employment Discrimination

CNN: LGBTQ Employees Protected Against Discrimination

NBC News: LGBTQ Job Discrimination Prohibited
Huff Post: LGBTQ Workplace Discrimination

Negative Attitudes Toward LGBTQ People

ENDA: Employment Non-Discrimination Act


Standing Up for Equality


"People fail to get along with each other because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don’t know each other. They don’t know each other because they have not properly communicated with each other."
-Martin Luther King Jr

"The humanity of all Americans is diminished when any group is denied rights granted to others."
-Julian Bond / NAACP Board Chairman


"The people who would forbid gays from marrying in the country are those who would have made Rosa Parks sit in the back of the bus."
-Jason West / Mayor of New Paltz, NY

"I've always felt that homophobic attitudes and policies were unjust and unworthy of a free society and must be opposed by all Americans who believe in democracy. The civil rights movement thrives on unity and inclusion, not division and exclusion. My husband's struggle parallels that of the gay rights movement."
-Coretta Scott King

"Courage comes when an interracial couple connects to a gay couple who has been discriminated against, and understands it as their own."
-President Barack Obama


"Discrimination is discrimination no matter who the victim is, and it is always wrong. There are no special rights in America, despite the attempts by many to divide blacks and the gay community with the argument that the latter are seeking some imaginary special rights at the expense of blacks."
-Julian Bond / NAACP Board Chairman

"At the end of the day it doesn’t matter which group is most oppressed or whether they are identically oppressed, what matters is that no group be oppressed."
-Keith Boykin / President of The National Black Justice Coalition

"All of us who are openly gay are living and writing the history of our movement. We are no more - and no less - heroic than the suffragists and abolitionists of the 19th century; and the labor organizers, Freedom Riders, Stonewall demonstrators, and environmentalists of the 20th century."
-Senator Tammy Baldwin

“When all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.”
-President Barack Obama


Intersectionality is a term coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980s to describe the way that multiple systems of oppression interact in the lives of those with multiple marginalized identities.  Intersectionality looks at the relationships between multiple marginalized identities and allows us to analyze social problems more fully, shape more effective interventions, and promote more inclusive advocacy among communities.



Intersectionality describes overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination. Intersectionality is the idea that multiple identities intersect to create a whole that is different from the component identities. These identities that can intersect include gender, race, social class, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, age, mental disability, physical disability, mental illness, and physical illness as well as other forms of identity. These aspects of identity are not "unitary, mutually exclusive entities, but rather reciprocally constructing phenomena." The theory proposes that individuals think of each element or trait of a person as inextricably linked with all of the other elements in order to fully understand one's identity.


This framework, it is argued, can be used to understand how systemic injustice and social inequality occur on a multidimensional basis. Intersectionality holds that the classical conceptualizations of oppression within society (racism, sexism, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, belief-based bigotry) do not act independently of each other. Instead, these forms of oppression interrelate, creating a system of oppression that reflects the "intersection" of multiple forms of discrimination.


Washington Post: Intersectionality Primer

Wikipedia: Intersectionality

Info: Homophobia and Heterosexism

Washington Post: Why Intersectionality Can’t Wait

TED Talk: The Urgency of Intersectionality

Privilege Walk: What is Privilege

NPR: Discrimination Compounds for LGBTQ People of Color


Defining Homophobia and Heterosexism


Homophobia is the fear, hatred, disgust, mistreatment, or intolerance of same-sex intimacy, relationships, atypical gender behavior, and/or people who identify as or are perceived as LGBTQ.

Heterosexism is the belief in the inherent superiority of heterosexuality and, thereby, it’s right to dominance. Carries with it the assumption that everyone one meets is heterosexual.


Homophobia refers to the many ways in which people are oppressed on the basis of sexual orientation. Sometimes homophobia is intentional, where there is a clear intent to hurt lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. Homophobia can also be unintentional, where there is no desire to hurt anyone, but where people are unaware of the consequences of their actions.


Roots and Causes of Homophobia

Homophobia: Origins and Cures

An Illustration of Privilege

How Privileged Are You?

Definitions: Homophobia, Heterosexism, Sexual Prejudice

Info: Homophobia and Heterosexism

Negative Attitudes Toward LGBTQ People

Video: Therapy Session for Homophobic People

This is What Homophobia Feels Like



Cisnormativity is the assumption that all, or almost all, individuals are cisgender. Although transgender-identified people comprise a fairly small percentage of the human population, many trans people and allies consider it to be offensive to presume that everyone is cisgender unless otherwise specified.

Examples of cisnormativity are closely linked to gender essentialism and may include statements like, "Men can not get pregnant." Although cisnormativity is rarely deliberate, it is almost always perceived as hurtful and offensive to the trans community. At best, cisnormativity contributes to the erasure of trans and nonbinary experiences. At worst, it is part of a deliberate and calculated system of oppression that includes institutionalized cissexism and transphobia.


Cisnormative is a term related to heteronormativity, heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, gender essentialism, cissexism, and other forms of oppression based on sexual orientation and gender identity.



Info: Cisnormativity

Wikipedia: Cisgender

Info: Straight/Heterosexual

Cisnormativity is Rampant

Info: Transgender

Hetero/Cis Normativity in Our Society


Oppressing Sexual Minorities

The term "sexual minority" is an expression that refers to persons who aspire to any lifestyle or orientation that doesn’t comply with the mainstream heterosexual concept of normal behavior.

Heterosexism is the assumption that only heterosexual relationships are normal and should therefore be privileged. Heterosexism is based on societal values that dictate that everyone is, or should be, heterosexual.

Intentionally or unintentionally, our society privileges heterosexuality and heterosexual persons, and devalues, mistreats, or discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer persons and those perceived to be so.

Heterosexual privilege bestows unearned and unchallenged advantages and rewards on heterosexuals solely as a result of their sexual orientation. These benefits are not automatically granted to LGBTQ persons.


Sexual Prejudice

Scientific analysis of the psychology of antigay attitudes will be facilitated by a new term. Sexual prejudice serves this purpose nicely. Broadly conceived, sexual prejudice refers to all negative attitudes based on sexual orientation, whether the target is homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual. Given the current social organization of sexuality, however, such prejudice is almost always directed at people who engage in homosexual behavior or label themselves gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

Like other types of prejudice, sexual prejudice has three principal features:

--It is an attitude (an evaluation or judgment).
--It is directed at a social group and its members.
--It is negative, involving hostility or dislike.

Conceptualizing heterosexuals' negative attitudes toward homosexuality and bisexuality as sexual prejudice (rather than homophobia) has several advantages.


First, sexual prejudice is a descriptive term. Unlike homophobia, it conveys no a priori assumptions about the origins, dynamics, and underlying motivations of antigay attitudes.

Second, the term explicitly links the study of antigay hostility with the rich tradition of social psychological research on prejudice.

Third, using the construct of sexual prejudice does not require value judgments that antigay attitudes are inherently irrational or evil.

[Source: Herek, G. M., 2000]


Roots and Causes of Homophobia

Homophobia: Origins and Cures

An Illustration of Privilege

Definitions: Homophobia, Heterosexism, Sexual Prejudice

This is What Homophobia Feels Like

Negative Attitudes Toward LGBTQ People

Info: Homophobia and Heterosexism


Hating Gays: Scientific Study

Social scientists attempting to explain why people hold negative feelings toward homosexual persons have tended to offer either theoretical speculations or empirical data, with little synthesis of the two.


The theoretical accounts often have revealed more about the writer's personal prejudices toward homosexuality than society's reaction to it. For example, William James (1890) assumed that being repulsed by the idea of intimate contact with a member of the same sex is instinctive, and exists more strongly in men than in women. Interestingly, in cultures where such forms of ''unnatural vice" as homosexuality are found, James supposed that the instinctual aversion had been overcome by habit. In other words, he assumed that tolerance is learned and revulsion is inborn. rather than vice-versa. This is particularly surprising in view of his hypothesis that a ''germinal possibility'' for same-sex attraction exists in ''most men."

Edward Westermarck (1908) went beyond instinct-based explanations in his cross-cultural study of morality. He was willing to assert that societal censure of homosexual practices is due to "the feeling of aversion or disgust which the idea of homosexual intercourse tends to call forth in normally constituted adult individuals whose sexual instincts have developed under normal conditions." But he thought this explanation was inadequate in accounting for the particularly violent reaction against homosexuality displayed by some religious groups. Their strong hostility exists, he said, because homosexual practices were associated historically with idolatry and heresy, and so were condemned by way of laws and customs.

The bulk of studies have sought to uncover the correlates of negative attitudes. In general, some consistent patterns have been observed across different samples. When compared to those with more favorable attitudes toward lesbians and gay men, these studies have found that persons with negative attitudes:

--are less likely to have had personal contact with lesbians or gay men
--are less likely to report having engaged in homosexual behaviors, or to identify themselves as lesbian or gay
--are more likely to perceive their peers as manifesting negative attitudes, especially if the respondents are males
--are more likely to have resided in areas where negative attitudes are the norm (midwestern and southern United States, Canadian prairies, rural areas, small towns), especially during adolescence
--are likely to be older and less well educated
--are more likely to be religious, to attend church frequently, and to subscribe to a conservative religious ideology
--are more likely to express traditional, restrictive attitudes about sex roles
--are less permissive sexually or manifest more guilt or negativity about sexuality

--are more likely to manifest high levels of authoritarianism and related personality characteristics


[Source: Gregory M. Herek, Professor of Psychology, University of California at Davis, Co-Editor of Hate Crimes: Confronting Violence Against Lesbians & Gay Men (1992), Editor of Stigma & Sexual Orientation (1998)]



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